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You be the Tour Guide


Grade level: middle school

Zion and Bryce National Parks, along with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, were first developed by the Union Pacific Railroad in an effort to develop tourism in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Competing with the Santa Fe Railway at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Northern Pacific Railway at Yellowstone National Park for tourist dollars, Union Pacific devised a scheme to attract tourists to use their own rail system. The plan consisted of providing lodging along a Loop Tour of Zion, Bryce, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Tourists would use the Union Pacific rails to congregate at the El Escalante Hotel in Cedar City, Utah and travel by motor coach to the Union Pacific lodges at the three Parks. The El Escalante Hotel was completed in 1923, and a year later the Zion Lodge opened. Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon Lodges opened in 1925 and 1928, respectively. Now that tourist lodging was complete, the Union Pacific Loop Tour was open and ready for business.

    Students will:
  • Research the natural features, wildlife, and geography of southern Utah and northern Arizona
  • Draw a regional map that includes the major towns, rivers, mountains, and roads of this region
  • Design a travel brochure to advertise the motor coach Loop Tour of the region
  • Calculate mileage and travel time between each stop

National Standards:

National Geography Standards

Standard 1:
How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.

Standard 3:
How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments.

Standard 4:
The physical and human characteristics of places

National Social Studies Standards

Standard 2:
Time, Continuity, and Change:
Human beings seek to understand their historical roots and to locate themselves in time. Such understanding involves knowing what things were like in the past and how things change and develop. Knowing how to read and reconstruct the past allows one to develop a historical perspective and to answer questions such as: Who am I? What happened in the past? How am I connected to those in the past?

Standard 3:
People, Places, and Environments:
The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world. Today's social, cultural, economic, and civic demands on individuals mean that students will need the knowledge, skills, and understanding to ask and answer questions such as: Where are things located? Why are they located where they are?

National Science Education Standards

Standard D: Understanding the structure of the earth system

  • Colored pencils
  • Paper
  • Road Atlas of the United States to trace a base map for the students to use
  • Great Lodges of the National Parks: Canyon Lodges (PBS video)

    Start with: Located in the rocky center of Utah's canyon country...
    End with: Instead, he insisted that all three Parks be a community of rustic log cabins with a day lodge as the centerpiece.

    Start with: A massive Canyon carved by a river, Zion offers some one of a kind hiking experiences.
    End with: It was like a Spanish fort, and it had a very high tower.

    Start with: The thing is you can't take it all in.
    End with: When your eye views it for the first time, you know you're looking at something very, very unusual.

    Start with: When we first got to the lodge, it was an overwhelming experience.
    End with: There's a million ways that the canyon can really punish you.

    Start with: After the Grand Canyon the tour buses would once again enter southern Utah...
    End with: At Bryce, the original Gilbert Stanley Underwood vision can still be seen.

    Start with: the flute playing just after "Deluxe cabins were built with logs, with the big massive stone columns on the corner, the interiors had fireplaces in them."
    End with: It's a very spiritual experience.

    Start with: The employees would also sing to guests as they left the Lodges.
    End with: end of video

  • State maps Utah and Arizona
  • Maps of Zion (
    ) National Parks
  • White construction paper, 12" x 17"
  • Trace the state boundaries of southern Utah and northern Arizona on an 8 " x 11" piece of paper from the road atlas. Add the following to the map: Flagstaff and Page, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; St. George, Cedar City, and Blanding, Utah. Include the scale of miles at the bottom of the map.
  • Tell the class that they are about to view a video on the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce National Parks. Ask if anyone has been to any of these. If someone has, ask them to describe the Park to the class. If no one has been to one of the Parks, ask what they know about the Parks and then fill in the gaps. Tell them to pay particular attention to why and by whom the lodges were built and how did early tourists get to the Parks?
  • View the video with the class. Review answers to the preparatory questions.
  • Explain that the class will become the advertising agency for the Union Pacific Railroad. Each person will make a tourist brochure to entice families to take the Loop Tour. Students are trying to sell tickets so they want to make the trip sound as wonderful, but realistic, as possible.
  • Start the project by giving each student a copy of the traced map. Tell the class that they need to add the following: boundaries of Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon National Parks, the sites of each lodge within the Parks, the Colorado River, major roads between the Parks, I-75, Hopi Indian Reservation, Vermillion Cliffs, Monument Valley, Pine Spring National Monument, and Black Rock Mountains (Arizona); Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Nevada; and Lake Powell and Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah. Provide state and Park maps for their use.
  • Once the maps are completed, students will measure the distances and determine the travel time (given an estimated maximum speed of 40 mph) between the Parks.
  • Students will research the three Parks to learn what activities, wildlife, and sites each Park has to offer. They will include these, as well as a brief history of the Parks in their brochure. They will also decide how long to stay at each Park.
  • With the information they have found on the distances, travel time, and Park attractions, students will then write an itinerary for the Loop Tour. The basic itinerary should follow that or the original Loop Tour: Cedar City to Zion, Zion to N. Rim of Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon to Bryce, and back to Cedar City again. Possible stops between the Parks may also be included, in which case they will need to research nearby attractions also.
  • Students will research the lodgings at the three Parks in order to describe them in their brochures.
  • Give each student blank paper on which they will write a rough draft of their brochure. The final copy will be written on the construction paper and will include a map, a description of the sites the tourists will see, distances between each stop, and the time it takes to get to each stop. They will also need to include information about dining and lodging, and a daily itinerary. Suggest that they liven up the brochure by including pictures. The map and pictures may be colored using the colored pencils.
Assessment Suggestions:
    Student assessment may be based on:
  • Completeness and accuracy of the map. Did the student draw everything that was required on the map? Did s/he place the sites at their proper locations?
  • Accuracy of the Park and lodge descriptions.
  • Descriptive language. Did the student describe the trip in such a way that a tourist would want to go on the Loop Tour?
  • Accuracy of distances and time between stops.
  • Understanding of the Parks' history
  • Ability to draw to scale and estimate distances for their maps
  • Invite someone who has been to the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce to give a slide show of their visit to the Parks.


Albright, H.M., 1931, The Rainbow Canyons

Hagood, A., 1982, This is Zion; an Interpretation of a Colorful Landscape in Picture and Story

O'Conner, L.B., 1992, The Grand Canyon

Schmidt, J., 1993, The Grand Canyon National Park

Tufts, L.S., 1992, Secrets in the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

World-Wide Research & Publishing Co., 1972, A Photographic and Comprehensive Guide to Zion & Bryce National Parks